LAS VEGAS – Isaac Cruz couldn’t knock out Giovanni Cabrera on Saturday night, and it nearly cost the heavily favored lightweight contender.

Mexico City’s Cruz settled for a 12-round, split-decision win on the Errol Spence Jr.-Terence Crawford undercard at T-Mobile Arena, despite that he caught Cabrera with flush punches during most of their bout.

Chicago’s Cabrera displayed a granite chin against the hard-hitting Cruz. The awkward southpaw didn’t appear to land nearly enough punches, however, over the course of their fight to make it as competitive as it was on the scorecards.

Judges Benoit Roussel (115-112) and Don Trella (114-113) scored their fight Cruz, who had a point deducted by referee Thomas Taylor in the eighth round for head-butting Cabrera. Judge Glenn Feldman scored Cabrera a narrow winner, 114-113, but he would’ve had it even if not for Cruz losing a point for his aforementioned foul.

Cruz nevertheless improved to 25-2-1 (17 KOs). Cabrera lost for the first time in seven years a pro (21-1, 7 KOs).

Cruz appeared tired and didn’t throw many punches during the 12th round. He couldn’t have known, though, that their fight was as close on the scorecards as it was.

Cruz’s hard right to Cabrera’s body landed barely 45 seconds into the 11th round. Cruz’s punch output was lower in the 11th round, but Cabrera didn’t land many punches in those three minutes, either.

A left hook by Cruz caused Cabrera to hold him with just under 1:40 on the clock in the 10th round.

Cabrera caught Cruz with a straight left several seconds before the ninth round ended. Cruz landed a right uppercut and then a right to the side of Cabrera’s head a little less than 30 seconds into the ninth round.

A right hand by Cruz buzzed Cabrera just before the eighth round ended.

Cruz’s right hand landed flush with 1:15 to go in the eighth round. Barely 10 seconds later, Taylor called for time and took a point from Cruz for head-butting Cabrera while trying to break a clinch.

Cruz sprung off the ropes and caught Cabrera with a left hook about 55 seconds into the eighth round.

A left hand by Cruz knocked Cabrera off balance with just over a minute remaining in the seventh round. Cabrera backed Cruz into the ropes about a minute into the seventh round, but he couldn’t do any damage.

A right hand by Cruz froze Cabrera with just over 1:20 to go in the sixth round. Cruz blasted Cabrera with a right hand and then two left hooks barely 30 seconds into the sixth round.

Cruz cracked Cabrera with a right-left combination with about 40 seconds on the clock in the fifth round, but Cabrera wasn’t hurt. Cruz’s right landed as Cabrera came forward approximately 55 seconds into the fifth round.

A sweeping left hook by Cruz landed with about 40 seconds remaining in the fourth round. Cabrera took that shot well, but he couldn’t land any of his own hard punches to keep Cruz from coming forward.

Cruz caught Cabrera with a right hand to the side of his head out of a clinch with just under 1:10 to go in the third round.

Taylor warned Cabrera at the halfway point of the second round for pushing down on Cruz as Cruz came forward. Cruz connected with a left hook about 1:05 into the second round.

Cabrera held Cruz several times as Cruz attacked him in the opening round. Fighting from a southpaw stance, Cabrera also avoided most of Cruz’s punches while moving backward in the opening three minutes.

Cruz did catch Cabrera with a left hook with just under 10 seconds on the clock in the first round.

Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.